This post originally appeared on the Scribbler. You can read it here.

Few Stephanians can be said to have led a ‘full’ life in college unless they have stories of Rohtas, the man who came to epitomise Stephania in his own unique fashion. A man who sat in his little tin dhaba, selling samosas, nimbu paani and gulab jamun, would not have ordinarily figured in the history of an institution as illustrious as St. Stephen’s College. But Rohtas was different, and as generations of students will tell you, he featured in some of their most enduring memories of life in college.

Rohtas passed away after a battle with Tuberculosis, and while few are privy to the exact details, we imagine him fighting this battle with much gumption and gusto – the way he lived every day of his life.

My Facebook feed was flooded with condolence messages, but few were limited to a simple R.I.P. Instead, everyone came out with stories about how his incredible character, endearing irreverence, outspoken demeanour, and most of all his passion for the students. A day in college wouldn’t be complete without a chat with Rohtas, usually involving some choice expletives, a bit of a rant about the way things are and the way things used to be, and maybe a complimentary nimbu paani when you wouldn’t have change.

rohtas4 The End of an Era: R.I.P. Rohtas, an Institution of St. Stephen'sWhen Alumni came to visit their alma mater, alongside a visit to the Café for ‘scramble and mince’, a great deal of time would be spent with the man whose curmudgeonly manner endeared him to one and all. And despite having seen countless generations of Stephanians come in and out of the hallowed halls of college, he would remember them all.

Rohtas’ association with St. Stephen’s is possibly one of the oldest. His father, Sukhia, who also figures prominently in the anecdotes of Stephania, was the founder of the Dhaba as we all know it today {Sukhia passed away 30 years earlier}. As the stories go, when Rohtas started working at his father’s establishment, he was already an old fogey in a young man’s body.

But that was part of the charm of this wonderful soul, who couldn’t ever hide his love for all the students of St. Stephen’s. He had nicknames for almost everyone {bhola/bholi for a particular set}, had something to discuss daily, he worried about the state of affairs in St. Stephen’s under the regimes of various principals, and smoked 20 beedis a day, but insisted he’d quit.

He’s been seen chasing a long-haired student with a pair of scissors, insisting that the look was emasculating; he would hurl abuses at food stalls that would be brought in for various festivals; he’d be the go-to guy for any student who wanted their phones charged or their bags kept in a safe place, and more than anything else, he was a friend to all.

Recounting stories about him would fill innumerable books, and each person had his or her own individual bond with him. Stephanians across the globe, be it political leaders, captains of industry, government officials or renowned writers and artists, jointly mourn the passing of the man who touched some of the best years of their lives with his own brand of humour and humanity.

We all celebrate his life with the fondest memories but also a note of bittersweet melancholy, for St. Stephen’s will never truly be the same without our dear old Rohtas.

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